Discernment Counseling


It is not uncommon for me to receive a phone call or email from someone inquiring about couples therapy, and quickly learn that at least one of the spouses is either threatening divorce or ambivalent about the future of the relationship. These 'couples on the brink' often do not find traditional marital therapy to be helpful, for a number of reasons, for example one or both partners may be holding back from leaning into the relationship enough to do the work required to produce meaningful changes or the therapist they are seeing may not be experienced or trained to work with couples in their situation. In response to the recognition that these couples needed a different model of intervention: Dr. Bill Doherty of the University of Minnesota's Marriage and Family Therapy program developed Discernment Counseling - a brief intervention (typically ranging from 1-5 sessions, with each session lasting 120-90 minutes) intended to help both spouses discern the future direction of their relationship: Path 1 is to remain in the status quo, Path 2 is to begin a divorce process (litigation or collaborative options explored), and Path 3 is to commit to a couples therapy process for a designated period of time before putting divorce on the table. The ultimate goals for both partners in this process are clarity about both what is really going on in their marriage and the roles they each play in the problems (and potential positive changes) and confidence in the ultimate decisions made about the relationship.

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